Previously on the Best and Worst of Smackdown Live: Buddy Murphy’s weird but welcomed accidental push as an athletically gifted snitch continued with a TV match of the year contender against Roman Reigns. Plus, we’re Shane McMahoning again!
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Smackdown Live for August 20, 2019.
Best/Worst: King Of The Ring, Or, “90 Minutes Of Good Smackdown Followed By Half An Hour Of Total Garbage”
Let’s talk about the good stuff, first.
The King of the Ring tournament had its first B-Block round one matches, with Andrade vs. Apollo Crews obviously being the standout. Following Monday’s Raw’s lead, it looks like the structure of round one is, “one match you wish was way longer, followed by a dumb story-based match we barely thought about.” More on that in a minute.
But yeah, no, Andrade and Apollo Crews killed it out here. You know it’s good when Buddy Murphy vs. Daniel Bryan also happened on the show and there’s some debate on which one was better. Crews — a very good pro wrestler with a clear professional upside who has been stuck in creative paralysis pretty much his entire WWE career — seems rejuvenated as a performer since revisiting Full Sail and grapple-fucking with KUSHIDA. Andrade’s one of the most confident in-ring workers in the company, with good reason, and the announce team’s point of, “do you know how good you have to be to make Rey Mysterio consider retirement,” is spot-on. Him being clearly better than everyone and still leaning on Zelina Vega to help him finish his matches is the kind of thing that will piss off long-time fans (and people like my parents), and also position him for the world’s easiest face turn down the line, should it ever come to that*.
Andrade moves on to round two to face the winner of next week’s match between traveling Bible salesman Chad Gable, now with real “what’s it going to take to get you to drive this Buick off the lot today” energy (credit), and mute trickster (?) Shelton Benjamin. Benjamin “built momentum” this week by sneaking around behind Chad Gable’s interview time and putting a condescending sign on his door.
You know, the wrestling is still pretty great on Smackdown right now, but they are making some weird creative decisions. It’s like what would happen if Bozo the Clown and Cookie got put in charge of booking Lucha Underground. A mysterious mischief maker spreading short jokes! Rowan has an old man doppelgänger who gets kidnapped! Stone Cold Steve Austin goes to Vince McMahon’s office and meekly begs him not to arrest him anymore!
Yeah, so let’s talk about this.
For the past couple of months, Kevin Owens has been (for lack of better or more accurate phrasing) the Stone Cold Steve Austin to Shane McMahon’s Mr. McMahon. Shane McMahon’s sweaty, indifferent Mr. McMahon. Owens has been raging against the machine, fighting Shane on all fronts, battling a “Corporation” of goons, and even using the Stone Cold Stunner. It’s not a clever or subtle reference. At SummerSlam, Shane wrestled Owens for Owens’ career (which he could just end anyway if he wanted, because Owens is not actually Stone Cold) and made Elias the special ringside enforcer in a referee shirt. Owens attacked Elias and went on to win the match. On last week’s Smackdown, Shane revealed that (1) he doesn’t care about losing, and (2) Owens is being fined 100 grand for “putting his hands on a WWE official.”
If all that wasn’t convoluted and stale enough, this week’s Smackdown features anarchic hero of the people Kevin Owens going to Shane McMahon’s curtains and flat screens OB-GYN office to beg for forgiveness. This is the kind of “blue collar anti-hero vs. evil boss” story you write when you’re an out-of-touch billionaire who thinks workers should just shut up and do what you say, or else. I’m surprised they haven’t done an angle where Shane McMahon goes on Twitter and threatens to fire anybody who talks to a lawyer about unionizing.
With Owens emasculated and transformed into Shawn Michaels during the JBL storyline, Owens versus Elias happens. It’s also a King of the Ring round one match. As a side note, the 24/7 rules have “been suspended” for Elias’ benefit, because he’s Shane McMahon’s friend, and because WWE never books this shit more than a week in advance and barely cares about its own rules or internal consistency. So is it the 22/6 Championship? 19/5 Championship, counting Raw? But then if you only ever really defend it and have people chasing you on Raw and Smackdown, is it 0/0?
Is it just a meaningless prop
it’s just a meaningless prop, isn’t it
Anyway, sure enough, Shane McMahon interferes again, revealing that he’s wearing a personalized referee shirt under his dress clothes — is that why he’s always sweating? Because of layering? — and “screws” Owens. You see, McMahon agreed to lift the fine but make it even more outrageous if Owens puts his hands on an official again, so now he’s going to dress like a referee and bounce around in Owens’ face, screwing him out of everything with no hope of getting revenge. Because, you know, he GOT revenge at SummerSlam and Shane completely no-sold it. So now they can make things way worse for the hero, and there’s still no way to “kill” the villain. Nothing can happen to him. He could reverse anything that DID happen to him, and to make it worse, he doesn’t even care. The villain doesn’t even give a shit.
Best: BACK TO THE GOOD WRESTLING PLEASE
The show actually opens with a quick, effective segment featuring two major positives: Kofi Kingston being a vengeful badass, and Randy Orton delivering a promo at 2x speed because he finally realize how much shit we talk about him for being a slow talker. Orton and The Revival put Xavier Woods in a damn grave on Raw, so Orton shows up on Smackdown to gloat about it. Kofi shows up with a distraction TitanTron entrance and swagger-jacks him with a Trouble In Paradise From Outta Nowhere. A hurricane, I guess?
Kofi goes full Hammurabi and tries to break Orton’s leg with a chair, but The Revival runs out to make the save slash take all the damage. And hey, not only does this short and purposeful segment remain exciting from beginning to end, it (1) furthers the Kingston vs. Orton feud without having to make Kingston look timid or like the kind of guy who doesn’t throw hands for the benefit of his friends, and (2) cohesively sets up The Revival challenging New Day to a Smackdown Tag Team Championship match. Which makes sense, because it allows Dawson and Wilder to capitalize on the injury they put on Woods at Orton’s command. It’s like they’re actually getting something out of serving as a bigger star’s henchmen! Crazy!
The Revival also regains any momentum they lost losing a 2-on-1 chair fight to Kofi Kingston by defeating Heavy Machinery in Actual Tag Team Action. They score the win by pitting their greatest strength (professional wrestling excellence) against Heavy Machinery’s greatest weakness (Tucker). Tucker sold that Oklahoma Roll like a baby who couldn’t figure out how to turn over.
The best match of the night for me, because of course it was, was Daniel Bryan vs. Buddy Murphy. It’s the closest we’re going to get to leveled-up Bryan Danielson versus leveled-up Kenny Omega in our lifetime, I’m afraid. At least we’ll always have that PWG match where they sing ‘John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt’ to each other.
This one’s great for a few reasons. Firstly, it not only continues Buddy Murphy’s push as a valid on-screen character, it actually gives him a clean pinfall win over a major player. Secondly, that major player being Daniel Bryan makes a world of sense and favors Murphy tremendously, as Bryan’s borderline obsessed with doing a ton of little things to make sure his opponent gets over. Those moments where he loudly yells things about how Murphy should stay down and stop getting up to fight help the audience know who they’re supposed to cheer for and why within the physical language of the match, instead of having to tune in later and hear the announce team insist upon it. It’s one of the myriad of reasons why I think Bryan’s still the best wrestler in the world. He understands the how and why of the business so deeply you can almost read the instructions on his skin. Thirdly … well, these guys are awesome at pro wrestling. Buddy Murphy’s gonna end up with a Best Of DVD by the end of the year if he keeps this up.
The new secret to getting over in WWE: wait to see what Ali’s supposed to do next, and then do that first.
I could’ve lived without the backstage attack that immediately gets Bryan and Rowan their “heat” back, but I guess someone figured they needed to still look tough or whatever heading into the episode’s “big reveal” main event. And, oh Lord.
Worst: I’m Seeing Double; Four Rowans!
Last week Daniel Bryan told Roman Reigns that he’d done an independent investigation on the forklift driver error and parking lot hit-and-run of the past few weeks, and would dramatically reveal the culprit next week. Why Reigns is the kind of guy who’d punch Buddy Murphy in the face in like 30 seconds for not giving him the answers he needs but would wait a full week to see who the guy who obviously attacked him says actually attacked him is beyond me.
But Bryan and Rowan show up having kidnapped a guy with a sheet over his head, and Smackdown spends almost two full hours building up to the reveal. On social media we were hoping it was Luke Harper, who would at least make sense from a character connectivity standpoint, but that was wishful thinking. Really it could’ve been anyone, for any reason, other than the one we got. In case you missed it, here’s the guy who “attacked Roman Reigns:”
Yes, it’s a non-wrestling old man Mall Santa with a cottony-ass red beard. This dramatic reveal is followed by one fan laughing out loud, and like 30 seconds of nothing but heavy breathing.
I don’t know what we’re supposed to feel here. Who is that guy? Why is Rowan looking at him like that? Did Bryan not let Rowan know who they kidnapped? Why did Roman Reigns just stand there staring for half a minute instead of kicking all of their asses for jerking him around for a week? Most importantly, who green-lit this dumbass ending to Smackdown? I complimented Raw for ending without answering all of its own questions, but that ended on a championship match with pro wrestling implications, not a kidnapping and forced imprisonment of a Dollar Store Gimli with a fucking sheet over his head that gave everybody sauna breath.
Best: El Rendimiento
One of the surprise highlights of the episode is the pairing of Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn. It’s an artist and a really verbose guy who can’t stop explaining the art, so they should call themselves “Sander Cohen.” They reveal their partnership on Miz TV, because the easiest way to instantly reboot your character is to “request time on Miz TV” and then just beat up The Miz for no reason.
Some things don’t work for me here — mostly revolving around, “why is Sami Zayn becoming a manager instead of wrestling, and why when he wrestles does he always lose, is he severely injured or retiring or something and we don’t know it, what’s going on, seriously, somebody answer me” — but I’m very into Nakamura and the Intercontinental Championship becoming important things again. Plus, I’d rather have Sami Zayn yelling at us for something esoteric like not appreciating art instead of making us out to be “bad WWE fans” for caring about shit via corporate mandate. It’s a good first step on a journey I don’t necessarily trust them to finish, but it is what it is. Something.
Worst: Bayley, Still
Finally we have our one women’s segment of the week, setting up Smackdown on Fox commercial star Charlotte Flair to win back the Smackdown Women’s Championship before Smackdown goes to Fox.
At first I thought they were going to use our ongoing frustration with Charlotte Flair and how big of a jerk her character always is to balance out what a weird jerk Bayley’s been, but then they have Bayley shoving Flair over with zero provocation just because she can. I know Charlotte’s an asshole and everything, but preemptive blind-side shoving and running away is some straight-up coward shit.
I hope that when Charlotte inevitably drinks Bayley’s milkshake at Clash of Champions they send Bayley back to Raw to be Sasha Banks’ heel crony. I think Charlotte’s right, and that the Bayley experiment has pretty much run its course. I will always weep for the loss of precious, wonderful NXT Bayley, but maybe the return of NXT Boss can properly re-contextualize her. Or make her evil and give her something new to do. Bayley the performer is great. Bayley the character is a jean jacket and an American flag away from being Dolph Ziggler, and it’s gonna take more than a ponytail weave reveal to save her.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
Sheamus looks awful you guys
HHH: “I’m so proud of NXT moving to USA!”
Everyone is constantly assaulting Buddy like he’s the 24/7 champ.
I thought Elias’s theme song was a guitar strum and an interruption?
I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid Chad Gable’s new gimmick might be “guy who looks like a guy named Chad.”
Chad Gable looks like the super serious guy from school who never went out and partied only to get addicted to adderal and lose out on all his scholarships.
If Bryan had taken off the hood to reveal Dean Ambrose underneath this would have been the story of the decade.
The worst part of WWE programming is the part where I realize how many times they switch camera angles and then can’t stop noticing it the rest of the night.
Stats Dana needs to counter Business Vega. Otherwise Crews stands no chance.
Shane killing that crowd into dead silence was the Upside Down version of Raw going off the air to wild cheering
That’s it for this week’s Smackdown. Thanks for reading. Drop a comment below, give us a share to help us keep complaining about wrestling for a living, and be here next week when we find out more information about … Rowan’s dad? I’m still not totally sure what was going on there. Just breathe.
See you next week!